What do Print Finishing Companies do? A Guide to Varnishes for Designers and Marketers

What do Print Finishing Companies do? A Guide to Varnishes for Designers and Marketers


Finishing is a general term printers use for anything that happens to a job after it’s been printed. That means things like cutting, folding, binding and so on are all finishing processes. Many printers can handle the most simple finishing processes in house. Other more complex finishes might need to be outsourced to specialist print finishing companies.

Historically, there used to be a pretty limited range of finishes available so the creative possibilities were few and far between. But these days not only are there a wide range of finishing options but many are at relatively modest prices. So for the designer or marketer looking to improve the impact of their printed materials, there are a number of interesting and cost-effective options.

brochure with spot uv varnish

A bit of drop-shadow and nice spot UV. Really lifts the image out

Here we take a look at a range of varnishes which are often used to really improve the impact of coverings. They can also add to the brand in terms of making the product look more prestigious and improving durability.

It’s a little tricky to convey the look and feel of the varnishes here as they’re very visual, but we’ll have a go.

Machine Sealing
This is a covering produced by the printer that seals the ink onto the paper. It’s generally used when printing on matt/silk papers to stop the ink rubbing and marking (matt & silk papers are less absorbent so prone to rub and mark). It’s worth knowing about but is pretty basic and doesn’t really add to the impact of the product.

Varnishes are used to reduce or accentuate particular items on the printed page as well as improve durability of the item. Gloss varnish gives a shiny coating which tends to heighten the impact of photographs or particular design elements on the page. Matt varnish gives a smooth look that doesn’t reflect the light (which can heighten impact in brightly lit areas where reflections might obscure the cover messages). Silk varnish sits between gloss and matt varnishes.

UV Varnish
UV Varnishes typically cover the page with a transparent coating that feels very smooth and thick. The UV part stands for ultra violet which is the way the coating is dried – using ultra violet light. UV varnishes are usually seen covering the page in a smooth glossy coating that really brings out the colours in the page. They are also available in Matt and tints.

Spot UV
Worth mentioning separately as this is a technique where you can choose a particular item on the page to cover in UV varnish. It’s done to add vibrancy to the coated item and can really add impact; the contrast of the spot UV’d element to the rest of the page can be particularly eye-catching. This contrast is heightened by adding spot UV on top of matt laminated printing.

Textured Varnish
Textured varnish is a glossy varnish that overlays a slightly rippled, tactile finish to the page. It can be used as a spot varnish to enhance the impact of particular page elements and is an interesting and eye-catching alternative to standard gloss varnishes.

Other Varnishes
There are other more creative varnishes on the market today. Sparkly varnishes include metallic flakes to catch the eye and can be applied as a spot varnish. Tinted varnishes add gloss and colour to elements. There’s also the scratch off latex varnish that we’re familiar with lotto tickets – scratch to reveal the numbers underneath.

We’ll take a look at other finishing options in future articles.